“College-style” Workshop at the High School Level

Hi everyone!

Over the winter break I needed to complete a 20 practicum for my Adolescent Ed major.  This meant I needed to observe/participate in/lead a high school English classroom for the required time.  While I didn’t plan to spend more than 20 hours working with my favorite English teacher, I ended up completing 29 hours!

The experience was invaluable.  Rather than just observing, my cooperating teacher gave me the opportunity to teach in her creative writing class.   The students had just completed their poetry portfolios, so I suggested we do a “college-style” workshop–something the students have never gotten the chance to do before.  The type of feedback the students typically receive is verbal–one student will read something they wrote aloud, and will receive little comments.

In order to introduce the workshop, I made a presentation all about Geneseo’s creative writing program (shamelessly plugging wonderful Geneseo into their lives 😉 ).  I showed them how one of my poems progressed after it was workshopped.  The students were really excited.  I asked for volunteers on who would like to be workshopped; four students’ hands shot into the air.  It was really awesome to see  that they wanted to participate.  Following the day of my presentation, the students spent the next class writing comments on their classmates’ poems.  I gave them this handout for things they should be looking for when making comments:

Workshop Comments for…

*Use these questions when writing comments on your classmates poems–please answer on your copy of the writer’s piece*

  • What’s happening?  Who is the speaker?  What is the speaker trying to tell us?
  • Love notes… What’s working and why?
  • Constructive Criticism… What isn’t working?  How can the writer make that particular detail work better?
  • Final thoughts on the poem… What would you like to see in a future draft?

At the end of this class I gave the students this:

Workshop Guidelines

*Tips for in-class discussion*

  • If you are the student being workshopped, you may not speak until the end of your time slot.  You will be given the opportunity to ask questions, but this is not time to counter one of your classmate’s interpretations or criticisms.
  • If you hear a comment (whether it be love note or criticism) that you like, *knock* on your desk.  This shows the writer that multiple people have the same feelings about a particular detail.
  • You don’t need to raise your hands!  Workshop is supposed to be conversational.  Jump in whenever you feel like it.

The day of the workshop went amazingly.  The students had so much to say about their peers’ work.  I’m always so excited when I come into contact with people who love writing, and working to improve their writing, as much as I do.

Two students from the class emailed me asking if I could help them further with some of their work.  I was honored that they wanted me, a college student, to give them feedback.  One of them still sends me a piece once in a while.

I really loved working at my high school.  My winter break was busy, but rewarding nonetheless.


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